Blackmon v. Williams, No. 14-3059 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
On July 4, 2002, Cox was standing outside a Chicago restaurant when he was gunned down by two men. Two women driving cars near the scene saw the murder and the shooters’ faces. Less than two months later, both women independently chose Blackmon’s photograph out of arrays. They repeated those identifications at a live line-up and again at trial. Primarily on the strength of their testimony, Blackmon was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Blackmon petitioned the state courts for post-conviction relief, arguing that his attorney was constitutionally ineffective because he failed to present eyewitness and alibi testimony, and in the alternative, that he was actually innocent. The state courts summarily denied relief. Blackmon then unsuccessfully sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The Seventh Circuit vacated the denial of habeas relief and remanded for determination of whether Blackmon “is actually ‘in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.’” The record supported conclusions that Blackmon’s trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective by failing to investigate alibi witnesses and that the state court’s summary dismissal of the claim was unreasonable. Because of that summary dismissal, the alibi witnesses have not yet been tested in any adversary proceeding.